The honeymoon period is over, time to get serious! Let’s try to look past the glamour and romance of cruising top-down in America’s most iconic sports car; ignore the evocative deep rumble of a throbbing motor that telegraphs its power down the road causing heads to turn well before you’ve arrived; and dismiss the fact that such an impossibly cool car endows even your humble servant with instant ‘star status’.
Journalistic integrity is at stake here, analytical objectivity is called for, criticisms must be brought to the fore, potential future buyers have to be forewarned of foibles, failings and flaws with Ford’s mighty Mustang convertible. With my credibility on the line then, herewith issued is a litany of concerns.
Starting with the seatbelts for the driver and front passenger that always twists in the leading loop on the seatback and have to be straightened before engaging, and even then, only if you’re slightly OCD and like them to be flat and conformed.
Wow, that’s a deal-breaker… not. Anything else?
The roof mechanism has to be manually released by hard labour – that is you have to pull down a handle and twist it to release the canvas canopy before it can be lowered by pressing the button near the rear-view mirror. To close the roof, once again, after it’s been electronically raised, you have to yank down the handle and twist again. For weaklings like me, this might sometimes be a two-hand job, for most others, it’s merely a tiresome tug.
Moreover, the front and quarter-light rear windows descend once you press the button to lower the folding top. But they do not raise up again, when you restore the roof. Instead, you have to tax yourself by reaching down to the door console, and pulling up the single button for the two rear quarter-lights and then the two buttons for the front windows. Sheesh – what an effort! To be fair, the only downside is that I once, almost, nearly, just about, forgot to close the rear windows before locking and leaving the car.
I didn’t though, because I looked back. And you will look back. It’s that sort of car. Sitting in the sun, or brooding in a rough end of town, urine-soaked multi-storey car park, it’s attractive charisma and magnetism remains undimmed and captivating as ever. You HAVE to look back at it.
What else then, now that we’re here at the bottom of the barrel chipping away determinedly? Oh yes, you can’t turn off the lane-keeping system. You can decline the assistance that pulls you back from your meanderings off course, and you can reduce the intensity of the ‘you’re moving out of lane alert’ from a frantic wobbling of the wheel forcing you awake from your action hero daydreams to mild vibration.
What else? Well, you can set up your driving mode preferences in ‘My Mode’ but have to activate them each time as the car reverts to default when you start it.
And with that, I think we’ve had sufficient words of valid opprobrium. With this out of the way, let’s hear no more of this for the remainder of our tenure with the Stang. After all the sun is out, the stereo is pumped up and there’s still fuel in the tank. Let’s ride!
And ride we did in mid-April to mark the 58th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. I was invited by Ford to take the Stang up to Caffeine and Machine in Stratford-upon-Avon where they were hosting a small celebration. Along a spectacular line-up of the classic Stangs, including a sensational replica of the iconic Steve McQueen Bullitt Mustang, were current models such as the Mach 1 and the future of Mustang – an electric future of course – with the Mach-E electric family crossovers.
I was involved in the 50th anniversary celebratory parade back in Dubai – gosh, how time flies?! – when we actually ended up riding in the lead car, a classic Stang, owned by the squadron leader of the UAE national aerobatics team. Do you get any cooler than being a fighter pilot doing sky-ballet with coloured smoke and powerful jets? Nah. So of course he drove a Mustang!
I maintain, that the ‘coolest’ car you can currently buy brand new from a major car manufacturer, is none other than a Ford Mustang – more the coupe and convertible, although some of that magic dust is certainly rubbing off onto the Mach E. And note that ‘coolest’ does not mean the ‘fastest’, ‘expensivest’, ‘most powerful’, or even the ‘best’, it means ‘cool’.
To be fair, ‘coolness’ can be a fleeting phenomenon, especially with cars, although sometimes that spins back around again as cars become classics, but the Mustang has almost consistently maintained the cache of coolness for well over half a century.
It stems from the Mustang’s plucky underdog done good metaphor. The car was created as an affordable everyman sportscar, originally constructed from bits of other products from the Ford range, to keep the price low, the practicality high and the fun factor engaging. These days it’s a dedicated, specifically engineered modern sportscar, that is not quite as affordable as its progenitor, with prices starting at £47,000.
It also helped that one of the coolest movie stars of the 1960s drove it in one of the most vaunted car chase sequence in celluloid history, acclaimed as much for its realism as for its excitement – Mustang Vs Dodge Charger in the movie Bullitt, piloted (partly for real) by car fanatic and part-time racer Steve McQueen. Since then (and before) it’s been in countless movies, TV shows and music videos – I’d safely wager it’s probably the car with the most pop-culture appearances than any other.
And all of this rubs off on the owner/driver. People love the Mustang, they’re not offended by it, the way they would be by some overtly extravagant exoticars. And they all seem to want to hear it rev. I fear my neighbours might issue emails complaining about the noisy American car, but the last time one passed me as I was sitting in it waiting, he urged me to fire it up and let rip. Actually, I get that a lot from strangers.
It’s not surprising that Ford have now stopped selling the perfectly sensible, but entirely unsuitable 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost engine – you wanna hear this thing. I guess we need to make the most of it, as brand-new petrol V8s won’t be in our lives for too much longer. And if you really want to be cool – you gotta drive a V8 Mustang.